Differences and variations in water use

Variations in the global use of water

The amount of water used in the world every day is very uneven. Developed and emerging countries use more water than developing countries.

The map shows world water usage per capita.

The USA, Canada, Russia and parts of northern Africa use the most water per year per capita. China and parts of southern Africa and South America use the least water.

Differences in agricultural water use

Mechanisation - In developed countries, irrigation is mechanised. Sprinklers or timed irrigation feeds are used. Where agriculture is common, vast amounts of water can be released at a touch of a button. In emerging countries, irrigation systems have a lower capacity and so use less water.

Diet - The raising of cattle uses ten times as much water as growing crops. As a result, those developed and increasingly emerging countries which have a meat-rich diet use more water than developing countries which rely on subsistence crops.

Seasonal foods - Many developed countries use irrigation to grow seasonal crops the whole year round, such as the strawberries grown in Spain.

Climate - Some developing countries, such as Ghana, have a wet, tropical climate and therefore do not need to use water to be used in irrigation. Other countries have an arid climate such as Egypt, which uses large amounts of water from the Nile in irrigation.

Differences in industrial water use

Large industrial plants - Developed and emerging countries have industries that can use a lot of water. Steelworks in India and China need a large water supply. In contrast, developing countries have far fewer industries and much of what is produced is in small-scale cottage industries. They demand less water in the production of items.

Differences in water use

What the water is used for depends on the country. These pie charts below show the difference in water usage in Bangladesh and the UK.

In general, developing countries such as Bangladesh will use most of their water in agriculture (farming) and little in industry or domestic use. Farming is a large part of Bangladesh's economy so a large percentage of its water is used for that purpose.

Developed countries such as the UK have a more significant use of water for domestic reasons. Developed countries also tend to have a higher percentage for industrial use.

Bangladesh: 87.8% Agriculture, 2.2% Industry, 10.0% Domestic. UK: 9.9% Agriculture, 33.0% Industry, 57.1% Domestic.
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